Go asks NBI to protect PhilHealth documents

Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should immediately act to protect documents at the regional offices of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to preserve the integrity of the government’s investigation into systemic and systematic corruption within the agency, Sen. Bong Go said.

The senator issued the call upon receiving reports of the alleged tampering and destruction of documents in some PhilHealth regional offices.

In Pangasinan in Region I, rainwater leaking through the ceiling of a PhilHealth office reportedly damaged documents and records.

“We have received reports about the alleged attempt to tamper with or hide documents in the PhilHealth regional offices which could serve as evidence of some anomalies. I have immediately urged the NBI to look into it and make sure that everything will be preserved to protect the integrity of the investigation of the task force,” Go said.

Go revealed the NBI informed him on Friday night that their officers were already monitoring PhilHealth regional offices to make sure documents were safe and secure.

“The NBI said that they will also conduct an inventory of all cases being handled by PhilHealth regional legal offices in order to secure documents including affidavits and hospital records. They will also secure possible witnesses,” Go said based on his discussions with Eric Distor, NBI officer-in-charge.

He also urged authorities to arrest and prosecute anyone caught tampering or destroying PhilHealth records especially those related to cases being investigated.

“That’s why I said several times – cripple, cut off the fingers (of those involved in illegal activities) so that they could not move. The task force should use its power to stop the nonsense happening at PhilHealth,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Distor disclosed that an order had been issued directing the deployment of agents to various PhilHealth offices after they received reports of plans to destroy documentary evidence of wrongdoings.

“We heard in Pangasinan in Region 1 that the documents were damaged due to the rain. I’m urging the NBI task force to investigate if there is some shady activity there,” Go said.

“If it really due to heavy rains, it’s okay. But if the documents are intentionally destroyed, that’s another matter, they should be held accountable,” said Go, adding, “it should be determined whether heavy rains really caused the damage or was it due to negligence or was it deliberately done to damage the documents.”

“I call the attention of the PhilHealth leadership. You have huge funds, but you can’t have the roof of one of your office fixed. You should use your funds wisely for the renovation of your offices and your services to the people, ” he said.

He also warned that corruption also exists in the middle to lower levels of the bureaucracy. He urged authorities to impose preventive suspensions so that those involved in anomalies would not be able to influence the integrity of the ongoing probe.

Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, stressed that the investigation must lead to the prosecution of those responsible.

Swift investigation

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has confirmed that NBI operatives swiftly acted by inspecting PhilHealth Ilocos region office.

“It appears that many of the records have been saved, but the computer hardware and equipment were exposed to rain water leaks. The NBI agents noticed that the rain gutters of the building were clogged and saw a piece of cloth stuck in the opening of the drain pipe,” Guevarra said.

He said that it is still hard to tell whether the cloth was accidentally or intentionally placed supposedly to cause the water leak. The NBI is an attached agency of the DOJ.

Guevarra, who also heads the “Task Force PhilHealth” said that they would also try to determine the extent of the damage to the computers as well as its impact on the ongoing investigation.

In a statement posted Friday on Facebook, PhilHealth regional vice president Alberto Manduriao, who is based in Dagupan City, said the documents were intact.

“On the incident of leak due to heavy downpour of rain in PhilHealth Regional Office I which transpired at around 4:30 p.m. on August 19, 2020, we assure the public that all documents are intact and are all accounted for,” he said.

He said the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection as well as the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were in their office at around 8:30 p.m. to investigate.

“We have always been cooperative in all probes by authorities, and our office is open to any investigation. All legal documents were safely secured and there is no truth to the allegation that there was a cover up of evidences,” he said.

“All legal documents were safely secured and there is no truth to the allegation that there was a cover up of evidence,” he added.

The PhilHealth Regional Office 1 transferred recently to another office in Dagupan, from the original building it was renting for years owned by the family of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who initiated a probe on alleged corruption in the state insurer, said there is enough reason to suspect the leak was intentional. – Robertzon Ramirez, Eva Visperas

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